Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do Sore Muscles Retain Water?

Hey fitness friends! How's everything going? Eating and living healthy? Exercising regularly? Me? I'm doing great! I'm not sure how many of you knew this, but for the last 6 months I'd been studying for my personal trainer certification. I finally took the exam on March 2nd, and guess what? I PASSED! :) I am now officially a certified fitness professional! :) It wasn't easy trying to fit in studying with a full time job and all the other things going on in my life (I don't know how you moms & dads with kids do it!) but I got it done and I'm happy about it! Not sure what the future holds for me as far as that's concerned but I've finally got some fitness credentials and now know a lot more than I knew before about health & fitness so it was all worth it. When you've got a passion, you owe it to yourself to pursue it! I've found that if it's in God's plans, all you've got to do it go after it and He'll take care of the rest. :) By the way, if you'd like to learn more about what it takes to become a certified personal trainer, check out the Succeed At article I recently wrote, "How To Become A Certified Personal Trainer".

I have another announcement as well. Succeed At Fitness has become the official fitness contributor for Naturally Hair Magazine! My first article, "Exercise Your Right To A Fabulous Body" can be seen in NHH's premiere March 2013 issue. I'm excited to join forces with such an uplifting, positive resource such as Naturally Happy Hair, helping to inform naturals on the importance of taking care of their bodies as well as their hair. If you'd like to learn more about Naturally Happy Hair, check out the article on NHH at Succeed At

With all of that being said, as you can guess, I've been a very busy chica, but a happy one. As I stated before, not sure what the future holds, all I know is that I'm hopeful and excited about it! And continuously thankful for the opportunities God is blessing me with as I continue along this journey. :)

So back to business with a new blog post/1st blog post for the month of March. The subject? Sore muscles. The question? Do sore muscles retain water? In other words, can you gain pounds from having sore muscles? This has been a concern of mine for awhile now since I am one of those people who is constantly sore. Every time I do something new, you can bet your life that I'm going to be sore from it! And contrary to popular belief, muscle soreness has very little to do with how well you worked your muscles or how "good of a workout you got". It's an individual thing and varies from person to person. Don't get me wrong, chances are if you work a group of muscles you've never worked before or haven't worked in awhile, that there will be some soreness, but some people hardly ever get sore and some people, like me, are continuously sore. Luck of the draw and heredity are the determining factors. But I bet some of you didn't know that muscle soreness actually can affect your weight. To answer the question posed above, yes, muscles do retain water. Let me explain...
Check out the following scenario: 
A woman/man starts some exercise regimen with the hope of losing weight. The initial days are full of intense workouts, driven by a motivation to lose weight. The poor person endures all the soreness in muscles and body ache, hoping to see at least a pound or two less on the scale. Surprisingly, the pounds are still very much there, rather added by a couple more! This situation is bound to frustrate anyone and discouraged, they could decide to give up their workout routine. 
Sound familiar? The good news is that, the pounds gained come from water retention in muscles and nothing else. You can happily go back to working out and experience real weight loss a week or two after that!

How do Sore Muscles Retain Water?
When you work your muscles, microscopic tears appear in muscle fibers. When you rest these muscles after a workout, muscle recovery begins. The repaired muscles are thicker and tougher than the torn muscle fibers. As a result, you see an increase in muscle mass, as well as a visible bulge on the muscles that you work out. Eventually, the muscles become toned and stronger, due to recurrent tear and repair process. However, when you start with a workout regimen, you may experience soreness in the muscles that have been worked upon during the first few days. This soreness results from inflammation of torn muscle fibers. Another byproduct of this condition is water retention.

The microscopic tears in muscle fibers render them the property of sponges. The muscle fibers absorb water in the body, just like a sponge does. As a result, you see a weight gain on the scale. The muscles hold water only for a few days. Once, your workout routine sets in and your body gets used to it, water retention disappears automatically. The water retained in the body is directly proportional to glycogen content in the body. For every 1 gm glycogen, there is 4 gm of water retention in the body. Thus, if you have more glycogen content in the muscles, you will have more weight gain from water.

Water retention in sore muscles is mostly caused due to an intense workout such as weightlifting, running,... etc. Sometimes, you may experience sore muscles for no reason at all. Even a household activity such as cleaning or washing may trigger soreness in muscles. The soreness that you experience after workout stays for about 24-48 hours. It is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), as it surfaces after 12 hours of workout and not immediately. After a week of regular workout, your muscles will stop holding water and you will not experience any soreness. However, both water retention and soreness are likely to resurface, if you take a prolonged break from your workout.

Sore Muscle Relief
Usually, there is no need for any kind of sore muscle relief, except in cases of extreme pain and discomfort. The soreness and water retention subside on their own after 24 to 48 hours. If you exert the muscles again the next day, you are likely to have soreness for another day or two. However, within a week, the soreness should completely subside and you shouldn't experience any muscle pain. However, if the soreness interferes with your ability to work out, you can certainly take some measures to minimize the pain. Cold compresses, hot showers, steam, etc. work wonders for sore muscles. Massages can also help relax the sore muscles and reduce soreness. If the pain is still unbearable, you may try taking an aspirin or ibuprofen.
So to sum it all up, water retention due to sore muscles is an absolutely normal phenomenon. Do not get discouraged upon seeing the initial weight gain and prevent yourself from working out in the direction of your weight loss goal.


  1. Thanks for the explanation. My muscles always feel tense, even at rest. The only thing I’ve found that releases the tension is massage. It doesn’t need to be a deep muscle massage, just a gentle soothing relaxing massage does the trick. My husband saw what a great response I had to massage and learned to do it well enough to give me a simple relaxing massage every day. Works wonders. Helps release the tension enough so I can get to sleep more easily.

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